‘Some 80% of nearly quarter of million Afghans forced to flee since end-May are women, children,’ says UN agency official
ANKARA (AA) – The Afghanistan conflict is taking the heaviest toll on displaced women and children, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
“We are particularly worried about the impact of the conflict on women and girls. Some 80 per cent of nearly a quarter of a million Afghans forced to flee since the end of May are women and children,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said at a press briefing in Geneva.
Some 400,000 people have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the year, joining some other 2.9 million Afghans who remain internally displaced across the country, Mantoo said.
Ongoing fighting has been reported in 32 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, she added.
Stressing that the UNHCR is alarmed by the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Mantoo said the UN in Afghanistan continues to call for a permanent cease-fire and a negotiated settlement in the interests of the Afghan people.
“The human toll of spiraling hostilities is immense. The United Nations Assistance Mission has warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN’s records began,” she added.
The UN agency urged the international community to immediately step up its support to respond to this latest Afghanistan displacement crisis.
“Our teams, as part of the broader UN effort, have assessed the needs of almost 400,000 internally displaced civilians in the past fortnight. Responding initially to the most critical priorities, we are providing food, shelter, hygiene and sanitary kits and other lifesaving assistance, together with partners,” she added.
She urged countries neighboring Afghanistan to keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis in Afghanistan.
Underlining that Afghans outside of the country may have international protection needs, she called on all states to ensure Afghan can seek safety, regardless of their current legal status.
“Given the dramatic escalation in conflict, UNHCR welcomes the actions now taken by several states to temporarily halt deportations of failed asylum-seekers and ensure access to asylum procedures,” she added.
Making rapid gains over the past few days, the Taliban have now taken control of 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.
Following days of heavy clashes, the insurgents captured Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities of Kandahar and Herat on Thursday, and advanced on three more provincial capitals by early Friday.